Becoming Provident Providers

In December 2015 my family had to move home. This news was not welcome, nor was it in our plans in the near future. However the Lord has His purposes which we may not see at the time. So we began to look at the market and there was nothing in our price range we could afford other than small, 2 bed flats which would have our lively children running up the walls (due to a 22% rise in house rental prices). We knew we could not, and should not, justify agreeing to a place which we could not afford (more on that later). As such, our views stretched out further afield, we found a home in another area within our price range, it worked with travel etc…we went to look…instantly we felt this was the place which we needed to pursue. We did not like it (we would have to move away from Ward in which we resided in, the area itself was not very desirable, it had limited outdoor space) yet there was no denying the feeling that both Chrissie and I received…

We began to inform family and friends – and despite the disappointment felt by those close to us, we knew (and we kept checking!) that this was right. However, as days passed to a week, and as we began to make plans for the move to occur, the Lord had something else in mind for us. We may never know why we had to go through this experience, but we felt that suddenly, despite previous clear revelation guiding us to the place we found, we now felt it wasn’t right. We prayed and prayed together to make sure…and on the very next day a house that was more spacious was brought to our attention by our current letting agents, with a garden and at a significant drop in price to where we were having to move from and the other house we had found…for our small family, this was a miracle. It is not perfect, but we will never forget how the Lord directed us over those few weeks.

How does this link with ‘Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually’? For me there is one simple key to becoming self-reliant in these two areas…complete, unwavering trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The blessings we received as a family from this experience were more than finding a house in a place we want to be (temporal things) – this experience has had a massive impact on our family spiritually. Our children, particularly our eldest son who wanted to be a part of our prayers and searching, had seen faith in action. We had come to know God and Jesus Christ more as we had discussed with them and also, we knew of a greater assurance their deep, abiding love that they have for our little family. They created worlds without number, their power can shift mountains and part seas and yet they are aware of our need to relocate down the road.

Temporal and Spiritual Hand in Hand

Of course, as we begin to consider how to become temporally and spiritually self-reliant in our homes, we have to remember this important principle: D&C 29:34 “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.” – all things we do to follow our Saviour are spiritual, despite their being possible temporal blessings, the two are linked together.

Temporal Providers

I first want to focus in on being better temporal providers. As with most areas of the Gospel – we can all improve on this. Elder Robert D. Hales stated that there are some debts that can be expected in our lives – he said “education, a modest home, or a basic automobile may be necessary to provide for a family.” However, we must not allow ourselves to be enticed to spend money we do not have on any other means that are not necessary for us. If we need furniture and we do not have the finances, look in areas where you can save money until the time comes you can afford a little more for your family. Elder Hales went on to say “Unfortunately however, additional debt is incurred when we cannot control our wants and addictive impulses.”

Notice how Elder Hales uses the ‘addictive’! This is a strong word, yet a prophet, seer and revelator used this language, we need to learn from it. He suggests the same escape route as with other addictions, turning to the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we turn to the Lord to be temporally self-reliant? One of the major responses may be a confusing one to some, but not to those who have faith in Christ.

Tithing is a key part in becoming temporally self-reliant. In D&C 119:4 we find the reinstitution of this sacred law in these latter days…

“And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.”

Thus, tithing is not only found in the Bible and Book of Mormon for those of God’s children, but it is an important principle for us. Elder Robert D. Hales said “Tithing is the great equitable law, for no matter how rich or poor we are, all of us pay the same one-tenth of our increase annually, and all of us receive blessings so great “that there shall not be room enough to receive [them]”.”

We can all pay tithing. The Lord has seen fit to give us everything…we need the faith to trust in His guidance and show our faith by contributing 10% of the 100% He has blessed us with. Does that make it easy? Of course not! When discussing this very important principle with people I know who have had concerns, and these are people who want to serve and follow the Lord, their main concern is generally the same – “I/We cannot afford it.” We cannot afford NOT to pay our tithing. The members who have paid their tithing faithfully will testify that they have what they have because of the outpouring of blessings from heaven because of their obedience to this law.

In terms of being temporal provident providers, we have to be prepared to make sacrifices. How often have you wanted to buy or provide something to someone in your family or to someone you care for just to show that love? We are at the time we commemorate the birth of our Beloved Saviour Jesus Christ, and part of that worship involves the buying of gifts for loved ones, as the wise men did to the infant Son of God. We recently had what is becoming a more popular event in the UK (as with most things we decide to bring over from USA), Black Friday. As we reflect on this sacred time (Christmas, not Black Friday), are we planning a wonderful Christmas but staying true to being temporal provident providers?

Elder Hales shared a lesson he learnt in his early marriage years – “I was in the air force, and we had missed Christmas together…When I got home, I saw a beautiful dress in a store window and suggested to my wife that if she liked it, we would buy it.” Isn’t that great? He wanted to treat his darling wife to a gift. He continued that after his wife, Mary, tried the dress “After a moment the salesclerk came out, brushed by me, and returned the dress to it’s place in the store window. As we left the store, I asked, “What happened?” She replied, “It was a beautiful dress, but we can’t afford it!”…I have learned that the three most loving words are “I love you,” and the four most caring words for those we love are “We can’t afford it.”

…We are not meant to have everything we want. Mortal life was never meant to be a situation where we received anything we wanted whenever we wanted it. In fact, many of us have been blessed with a lot more than a number of people on this Earth. Are we living in our means and making sacrifices to ensure we are temporal providers?

Elder Hales gave a ominous warning to those who lack the self-control to not spend when it is not necessary, particularly when this spending leads to debt “Whenever we do this, we become poor temporally and spiritually. We give away some of our precious, priceless agency and put ourselves in self-imposed servitude. Money we could have used to care for ourselves and others must now be used to pay our debts.” If we spend where it is not needed and this leads to financial struggles, we have handed over our free will. We are, in a small fraction, no longer able to utilise our agency because we have placed restrictions on ourselves.

Spiritual Providers

This leads perfectly on to the other part of my focus – being spiritual self providers. In Mosiah 3:19 we read “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” Also, Alma taught his son, Corianton, in Alma 39:9 “Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.” (remember that lusts can refer to material coveting as well as sins of chastity). How can we ever hope to be like Christ and become ready to Celestial Kingdom, if we cannot control our desires and overcome the natural man?

Being spiritually self-reliant and being spiritual providers are two different things. I can be spiritually self-reliant, but if I do not share that with my children I am not being a provident provider. How can we spiritually provide?

I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “Give a man to fish and you will feed him for a meal, teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” This applies to teaching our children, our home teaching families, investigators…whoever…how to be spiritually provident. We have probably heard the verse before in D&C 68:25 “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

Please note again a vital word in this verse – “understand”. It does not say “teach them the doctrine of repentance”, it says teach them to understand the doctrine. How do we understand the Gospel rather than just know it? We have to teach those in our stewardship how to ‘fish’, how to receive that spiritual self-reliance and how to receive their own witness.

Blessings of Ministering

My wife loves animals, has studied Conservation and Zoo Biology at University and currently is in employment working with animals and teaching others about animals. It’s because of this frequent interaction with animals (having gone to a zoo or aquarium pretty much every holiday we’ve been on, including our honeymoon) that I have come to think about this topic in this way… 

In the animal kingdom there have been studies into natural altruism between animals. Altruism, as defined by behavioural psychologists, is an incident where someone or some creature performs an action for another without any benefit. For example, wolves have been studied saving meat acquired from a hunt for other adult wolves that were not present for the hunt. Ravens have been spotted calling other ravens to a feast they have come across. Walruses have even been seen adopting a younger walrus whose parents have been caught by a predator. In all these incidents, the giver does not receive any return from that act – it is an altruistic act. Even if the person or animal does the deed with no thought for reward or gain, if they do receive a reward, it is not a completely altruistic act according to behavioural psychologists.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we believe that there are no completely altruistic acts.

Let me explain. When we serve (or minister) in this great work of salvation, we receive blessings. Of course, those blessings should never be our main motivator – nevertheless, we will receive blessings.

There are three areas in our lives that ministering to others has blessed me personally in, and can bless all of us if we elect to serve God with all our heart, might, mind and strength.

Me (The Giver)

As mentioned, there are a great number of individual blessings available to the soul who gives up, sacrifices, their time for the building of the Kingdom of God on the Earth. I will focus on the ultimate blessing we will receive – for we receive an outpouring of blessings – as we fulfil our covenant we make at baptism to ‘take upon ourselves the name of Christ’.

What does taking upon ourselves the name of Christ have to do with ministering? Everything! Christ was the ultimate Minister – He Himself said:

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

As such, when we promise and make the assurance we will be willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, we declare we intend to become like Him. Therefore, we MUST minister!

I wish to illustrate this briefly with a parable by the Master Teacher – the Parable of the Talents. This parable applies directly to this principle. We can recognise the Master in the Parable as our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are the servants. If we are not slothful but minister as the Saviour expects us to we produce results, or fruits (in the case of the parable, talents). Now, this is not to say that in order to be a successful minister we have to double the attendance in our Quorum, or double the number of people going to the Temple to worship – although that would be marvellous. The result of our efforts could simply be ourselves coming closer to the Lord and developing our own talents. When the two servants who received their talents, worked and were successful – note the response of their Master (imagine our Lord saying this to you):

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:21)

Notice the difference between the servant’s status before and after his work (or ministering). Before, he simply owned the talents for a season (or in our case this represents what we do with our time, talents, possessions etc. on the Earth) but then, he was made a ruler over many things – he became the owner, he gained dominion – what does this represent for us. It is eternal life, the greatest of all gifts of God (see D&C 14:7).

Marriage

I love my wife eternally. There is no one who I would rather spend time with. She is my eternal companion, the spectacular mother of our children and my best friend. However, when I minister as an Elders Quorum President, that takes away time I get to spend with her. So, how can ministering in the Kingdom possibly strengthen my marriage, or indeed any marriages of devout members who minister?

Allow me to illustrate this, this time with an example from our own marriage. Early on in our marriage I was serving as the Young Men’s President in our Ward whilst my wife was serving as the Primary President in our Ward (…we didn’t have any young children demanding our time at this point as you may have guessed). As such, we were required to be ministering in either calling most evenings in the week. On top of this Chrissie was working through her final year of University while I was adapting to my first year of University. For a young couple who had only recently been married a few months before, surely this demand on our time would not be a benefit to us in strengthening our marriage? However, it was. As my wife and I came away from our ministering to our home, we were filled with the Spirit. We supported each other in our calls and we saw each other grow and develop.

Even now with two young children, we are finding ways of ministering together. This recently has been accomplished mainly through our Family History efforts  – over the past two weeks my dear wife has discovered 62 individuals who have been submitted for baptism (I can’t help but praise her at every opportunity). Through this ministering we have found our marriage relationship enhanced – I firmly believe and testify that as couples find ways to serve and minister they are blessed. It may be difficult, but for now, and the eternities, it will strengthen your relationship and increase your happiness as you invite the third companion of your marriage through your service – Jesus Christ.

Family

Finally, ministering in the Gospel can strengthen your family. Again, some might question this considering that ministering takes you away from your family. When I leave my two children, how am I strengthening my relationship with them? However, as with marriage relationships, family relationships can be strengthened.

The scriptures are brimming with examples of this – Lehi->Nephi (I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father… 1 Nephi 2:16), Abraham->Isaac (Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. Genesis 22:9), Jacob->Enos (the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. Enos 1:3) and many more!

I, however, could not make mention of being examples of ministering without mentioning my upbringing. My Dad served as a Stake President between when I was the age of 11 and 21 – the formative years of my Gospel life for me personally. Let me say this now – there were not many evenings I got to see my Dad: Monday was FHE (good), Tuesday meant Stake Councils in some form or another, on Wednesday my brother and I were at Youth and Dad was the Taxi service, Thursday’s were Institute and Interviews night, Fridays and Saturdays depended very much on the week (sometimes there were activities or Stake events that required attendance) and Sundays probably one in four Sundays Dad would be home in the evening (after being out at 7am in the morning and returning home at around 3pm…and the one Sunday evening a month I would be at a Youth Fireside)…

However, my Dad remains to this day as one of my inspirations in my life. Why? I barely got to see him at home…there can be only one answer – his example as a disciple of Christ. Notice I did not say “his example as a Stake President, or a Priesthood Leader, or even as a very busy man”. It was not his calling that inspired me, but his willingness to serve and minister. In his case, it just so happened to be as a Stake President. But for anyone, it may be a case of being a dedicated home teacher for a family who a struggling to be self-reliant spiritually. Your calling does not affect the impact you can have on your family; you have to simply be an example. Ministering to others (in whatever shape or form we do) strengthens our family. As mentioned in the scriptural examples, it is  the example we set of a disciple of Christ, and seeing the joy it brings us.

Ministering of Angels

Since receiving the Aaronic Priesthood, I have often wondered about this phrase promised to those who receive this Priesthood when it was restored to the Earth – “…I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels…” (D&C 13:1).

After thinking for a while about what this means I was studying one day and discovered a quote by Elder Dallin H. Oakes about this very topic in the October 1998 General Conference – he taught:

“Through the Aaronic Priesthood ordinances of baptism and the sacrament, we are cleansed of our sins and promised that is we keep our covenants we will always have His Spirit to be with us. I believe that promise not only refers to the Holy Ghost but also to the ministering of angels, for ‘angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.’ (2 Nephi 32:3)So it is that those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood open the door for all Church members who worthily partake of the sacrament to enjoy the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord and the ministering of angels.”

Here, Elder Oakes is teaching that the sacrament and the Aaronic Priesthood that governs it holds the keys of the ministering of angels. This is because, as angels speak through the power of the Holy Ghost (and the sacrament allows us to always have His Spirit to be with us), we are ministered to by angels as we partake in the ordinances provided by this Aaronic Priesthood. I had never thought about this in that way before but it is clear to see how these promises can, and are, fulfilled to bless the lives of God’s children.